It’s not very often that a team has a “must win” game, but tonight definitely had that feel. The team has undoubtedly struggled lately and needed to slay baseball’s 2018 Goliath to jumpstart another stretch of good baseball. Vince Velasquez would be on the mound, not a bad thing considering he’s had a 2.68 ERA in his last 50 1⁄3 innings pitched. They would face Nate Eovaldi who himself was coming off a very bad start against the Orioles (2 IP, 10 H, 8 R).
It didn’t start out well.
Velasquez started off in decent shape, getting the first eight hitters out without much damage. Then, in the third, came the ultimate no-no: walking the American League pitcher. Andrew Benintendi walked also and was followed by noted Phillie killer Brock Holt getting an infield single to load the bases. Velasquez then served up a double to Mitch Moreland, making the score 3-0, Boston. The next two hitters would walk, loading the bases again and sent Gabe Kapler to the mound earlier than he wanted, ending Velasquez’s night. Hector Neris, recently recalled from Lehigh Valley, surprisingly put out the fire, putting a stop to the inning. It would stay that way until a very eventful bottom of the fourth.
It started with Rhys Hoskins reaching on a Rafael Devers error and Nick Williams getting his second hit of the night, putting runners on the corners. This introduced Phillies fans to Wilson Ramos, and what an introduction it was.
Welcome to Philly, Wilson Ramos!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 16, 2018
His RBI double puts the Phillies on the board. pic.twitter.com/6HBbVJrjcq
That double put runners on second and third and cut the Red Sox lead to two. Odubel Herrera, who has been struggling lately, followed with a productive ground out, scoring Williams and sending Ramos to third with two outs. That brought up Carlos Santana in a pinch hitting situation that felt like the leverage index was about at a 15. Santana has been a whipping boy in the media lately, hearing it about his inability to get hits when needed as he’s being paid like a run producer. He had a chance to atone for those “sins” by coming through in the clutch here. So he did, beating the shift with a rocket single and tying the ballgame at three.
It would stay that way until what we thought was the top of sixth. That inning had the turning point in the game. With two outs, the Red Sox got singles from Devers and Sandy Leon. Steve Pearce would pinch hit and hit the ball to the vacant space between first and second caused by a shifted defense. Cesar Hernandez somehow got to the ball and threw off balance, seemingly pulling Justin Bour off of the base. Devers would score when Bour fell down, but the Phillies would challenge, thinking Bour held the bag juuuuust long enough to record the out.
Justin Bour with the NFL-caliber toe drag for the out. Gets Phillies out of the inning instead of down 1. https://t.co/0dFiWguYxZ— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) August 16, 2018
Winning that challenge was quite likely the point at which most Phillies fans thought they had a chance to win this game. It was a remarkable play by a first baseman who isn’t exactly known for having nimble feet around the bag. It turned out to be pivotal in the bottom of the inning when Ramos tripled (!) to lead off the bottom of the inning.
First triple in 7 years for Wilson Ramos pic.twitter.com/B7iXBqSBo4— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) August 16, 2018
Maikel Franco walked after a Herrera strikeout, which caused Kapler to dip into his bench yet again, this time calling on Scott Kingery. The scorned youngster delivered, hitting a sacrifice fly that gave the team a lead for the first time at 4-3.
In the seventh, the offense awoke. Bour singled, Asdrubel Cabrera walked and Hoskins hit a fly ball that sent Bour to third. Williams struck out and up came local legend Ramos, who came through yet again
That made the score 6-3. Herrera singled Ramos to third and was followed by another single by Franco, making the score 7-3. It felt like a comfortable enough margin, but this being the Red Sox of 2018, nothing was safe.
The eighth inning saw the Red Sox load the bases with nobody out against Pat Neshek. In the past, we might have gnawed the fingernails down into bloody stumps, but Neshek managed to induce a line drive that was hit a bit too hard to score a run and a Sandy Leon-pop up that gave the team two quick outs. However, Boston manager Alex Cora had an ace in the hole - pinch hitter/MVP frontrunner Mookie Betts. Neshek looked like he was going to get out of it too when he got Betts to ground out, but his reaction to deflect the ball when it was hit right back at him slowed it down enough for everyone to be safe. Kapler took no chances and brought closer Seranthony Dominguez in, who shut the door on the rally with one pitch. Dominguez would also end the comeback attempt by the Red Sox in the ninth, getting them in order to preserve a hard fought victory, 7-4.
- This was a fascinating find by our very own writer schmenkman:
No one is expecting Ramos to be this good every night. However, his addition to the lineup just made what was a below average group start to look a little more dangerous.
- Gabe Kapler managed a brilliant ballgame. He got Velasquez out just in time, hit all the right buttons with his relievers and almost every pinch hitter came through. Luck? Possibly. But he knows this team and put them in a position to be successful every single time. It’s time for the doubters to come to the light about his managerial abilities.
- Don’t forget - it’s a double header tomorrow, starting at 4:05 p.m. Unfortunately, the first game will be a Facebook game, so make sure you alert your grandparents where to find it.